Many years ago when we visited this area, we never gave any thought to the military located here. But, since I’ve lived here, I have discovered that Hampton Roads is the military capital of the United States. All four branches of the armed forces call this region home, and that includes the Coast Guard. In fact, Naval Station Norfolk is the world’s largest naval installation. Probably because of the military, I would say more than 50% of the people in this area are from some other place. So much so, when you move here the second question asked, after where are you from is; are you military?
For us, out of the northeast or any civilian for that matter, doesn’t think of the different branches of armed forces there are. I had uncles who were Army; my father served, which may explain my pro position. My step-son is Army, and still a Reservist; my husband is a Marine (once a Marine, always a Marine), and he and his brothers covered every branch, with the exception of the Coast Guard. But, aside from that it’s just not something myself or the everyday person thinks of, because under normal circumstances it is so very far removed. Now living here, it’s not unusual whatsoever to spot military. But, even with that in mind, I still find myself at times, staring and giggling like a girl under a spell.
I can remember, walking along in Manhattan, catching a glimpse of Sailors sightseeing around the city. I’d glance, smile and then, be on my way, but it always proved a great topic of conversation. I also have a memory of myself at seven years old, riding on the passenger train with my grandmother. On this particular long trip I sat next to a Navy guy in his stark white uniform. Falling asleep, and waking up with my head in his chest, my grandmother immediately became very apologetic to the young man. He responded with something to the effect of, and I must paraphrase here; “Don’t worry about it. It’s not a big deal.” Lastly, I recollect twirling in her front yard, watching the jets overhead leaving their white plume. I didn’t know it then, but now I realize they were probably from Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach.
So, I know you’re wondering what’s the reason for all of this; my husband, driving along the other day, pulled up beside a jogger with a close hair cut. He slowed the car, put down the window, and commented, “With that kind of hair cut, you must be a Marine.” The young man’s response, “No, I’m a Seal.”
I don’t know about anyone else – my eyes stretched wide, I got all excited, and smiled. My husband, probably because he’s been there, couldn’t grasp my interest or my excitement. But, say the words – N A V Y S E A L – I’m impressed. When he told me about this happening I couldn’t think of a better way to acknowledge our uniformed men and women than to write this little blurb, giving them all a corny, but heart-felt shout out, and to say – Thank you. As usual, I didn’t intend this piece to be a history lesson on the military here, but that’s where it went. Regardless, whether you are pro military or against, a uniform cannot be ignored when it crosses your path at least once every couple of days. You can’t pull a cap down over your eyes when sitting behind a car at a traffic light, and the license plate holder on the vehicle in front of you reads, “Jet Noise – The Sound of Freedom.” Knowing that all these military installations are around, I should shudder from fear of some type of attack, but I don’t. When I rest my head on my pillow at night I think of that license plate holder. I then, thank God for the men and women; not only the ones who live across the street or around the corner, but all of them who faithfully and unselfishly protect this country, and my freedom.
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